Headlines: Calls For Improved Ventilation At WIPP, 2nd 'Right-To-Work' Proposal Filed...

Jan 6, 2015

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US Calls For Improved Ventilation At Troubled Nuclear Dump The Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Energy says more needs to be done to improve ventilation for workers at the federal government's underground nuclear waste dump in southern New Mexico.

The contractor that operates the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has already acknowledged that air filters used to remove particles following a radiation leak in February have restricted the airflow in the underground working area.

The plant developed a plan for operating diesel equipment below ground, but Department of Energy assessors have determined that plan isn't enough to ensure safe conditions once the use of diesel equipment resumes.

The contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, and the Department of Energy's Carlsbad Field Office say they’re seeking a consultant to help evaluate the ventilation needs and make recommendations.

They’re also implementing an air-sampling program for diesel particulates and other gases.

Report Of Smoke Odor Evacuates Floor Of Albuquerque HospitalThe Associated Press

Patients and employees on one floor of an Albuquerque hospital were briefly evacuated because of a reported smoke odor.

Albuquerque Fire Department officials say firefighters didn't smell smoke but instead noticed an electrical odor on the ninth floor of the downtown Loveless Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

They say a melted motor in the HVAC system was discovered.

There were no injuries and all patients and employees later returned to the ninth floor.

New Mexico VA Director Aims To Rebuild Veterans' Trust  - The Associated Press

The new director of the Veterans Affairs' health care system in New Mexico is embarking on a tour of the state, with town halls planned from Alamogordo and Silver City to Gallup and Rio Rancho.

Andrew Welch will be meeting with veterans and their families as part of an effort to restore trust after VA hospitals and clinics around the country were rocked by allegations of mismanagement, delays in care and secret waiting lists.

Welch tells the Associated Press he's focused on restoring trust and that will come through the VA being accountable and ensuring access to care for veterans.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham met with Welch on Monday to talk about the lack of progress in reforming the VA. She says she's cautiously optimistic Welch will provide the leadership and stability needed in New Mexico.

New Mexico Lawmakers File 2nd 'Right-To-Work' Proposal The Associated Press

A new proposal would bar New Mexico private- and public-sector workers from being required to join unions as a condition for employment.

Three Republican lawmakers announced Monday they’ve filed a bill that would transform New Mexico's labor laws and make it a "right-to-work" state. The measure goes further than a proposal from Sen. Sander Rue which would only bar private-sector employees from the requirement.

Supporters of the bills say they would spur economic growth and attract businesses to the state.

Opponents say they're attacks on unions and won't create jobs or save the state any money.

Both proposals come as the Republicans will take control of the New Mexico House for the first time in 60 years.

Democrats still control the New Mexico Senate.

Audit Report Finds Santa Fe Community College In Compliance - The Associated Press

Auditors noted some previously disclosed problems with Santa Fe Community College's finances but concluded that allegations of mismanagement weren't substantiated.

A special audit conducted by an accounting and consulting firm for the Office of the Auditor General stems from allegations made by former college President Ana "Cha" Guzman after she was fired by the college's governing board.

The audit report listed findings that included previously reported overspending and missing documents but concluded that the college "complied in all material respects" with appropriate financial requirements for fiscal years 2009 through 2012.

Current college President Randy Grissom says that clears the college.

The college's board agreed to pay Guzman $500,000 last March to drop a lawsuit she filed against the college under whistle-blower protection laws.

Regulators Weigh Proposal To Close Part Of New Mexico Plant – Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press

State regulators are taking testimony on a plan that calls for shutting down part of an aging coal-fired power plant in New Mexico that provides electricity to more than 2 million people in the Southwest.

The plan would curb haze-causing pollution at the San Juan Generating Station, but some environmentalists argue it doesn't do enough to wean the state's largest utility off fossil fuels.

The hearing before the Public Regulation Commission began Monday in Santa Fe as dozens of people protested outside.

Inside, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly told regulators the plan was the best option for meeting environmental mandates while avoiding what he called an unnecessary economic sacrifice, including lost jobs.

Shelly says the tribe already is struggling with high unemployment, and many families lack basics such as running water and electricity.

New Mexico Legislator Wants To Ban Some School Activity Fees - The Associated Press

A New Mexico legislator wants to prohibit some public school activity fees.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Sen. Craig Brandt says he believes public school fees violate the New Mexico Constitution's guarantee of a free public education.

The Rio Rancho Republican is sponsoring a bill in the upcoming legislative session to prohibit fees for such things as laboratory classes, fine arts education, physical education and special education and use of libraries.

According to Brandt's office, the bill would not apply to fees for school clubs, athletic teams, parking passes or replacement of lost or damaged items.

Spokeswoman Monica Armenta of Albuquerque Public Schools says school officials aren't familiar with the bill and cannot comment on it.

Brandt is a former Rio Rancho Public Schools board member

New Funding Basis for New Mexico Unemployment Program Begins The Albuquerque Journal

Some New Mexico employers are feeling the pinch of an overhaul of New Mexico's unemployment insurance program that has taken effect with the new year.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a change in the program's funding was approved by the Legislature in 2013 but with implementation delayed until 2015.

Employers with higher rates of using unemployment insurance in recent years now are being charged the highest rate. Employers' payments pick up the entire cost of the state's unemployment insurance trust fund.

In the case of one Albuquerque real-estate brokerage and property management company that recently had its first benefits claim in many years, the cost for one quarter of the year has risen from roughly $300 to over $2,900.

Search For Superintendent Triggers Community Survey The Associated Press

New Mexico's largest school district has an important decision ahead of it, and school board members want the public's help.

Albuquerque Public Schools is conducting an online survey where students, parents, teachers and community members can choose characteristics they feel the district's next leader should have.

The district is also hosting public meetings and forums to discuss the search for a new superintendent.

Board President Analee Maestas says this is probably the most important decision any school board has to make and the choice affects the entire community.

Winston Brooks resigned from the post in August after the board bought out the last two years of his contract. Both sides declined to elaborate, but records show an attorney was hired to look into accusations of intimidation and retaliation involving Brooks.

New Mexico Department Of Public Safety Names New Chaplain The Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Public Safety has a new chaplain.

The agency announced Monday that José "Chappy" Villegas will serve as the department's official chaplain and will help victims and department members deal with the emotional aftermath of violent crimes.

He also serves the Santa Fe Police Department and Fire Department and the FBI.

In addition, Villegas also assists with more than twelve agencies in northern New Mexico when needed.

Albuquerque Officer Shot During Stop Is 31-Year Veteran The Associated Press

More reward money is being offered for information leading to the arrest of whoever shot and wounded an Albuquerque police officer during a traffic stop.

Lou Golson was shot twice — including at least once in the torso — as he tried to question a motorist early Saturday.

It's not yet known what provoked the driver to shoot at Golson, who returned fire before the suspect fled from the scene.

The U.S. Marshals Service is posting a $10,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's arrest.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has offered a $7,000 reward in the case.

Police: Farmington Man Arrested For DUI For 16th Time The Associated Press

Authorities say a 30-year-old Farmington man has been arrested for DUI for the 16th time.

Farmington police say Laurence Pine is being held on a $200,000 bond on suspicion of DUI, two counts of child abuse, failure to maintain traffic lanes, driving with a revoked license and possession of drug paraphernalia.

It was unclear Monday if he had a lawyer.

Pine was arrested Dec. 31 after officers were dispatched to Hastings about a possible domestic violence situation.

They say Pine had left the scene, was allegedly under the influence of alcohol and had two young children in the vehicle.

Officers later located the car at a gasoline station and say the two children — ages 8 and 11 — were inside.

A warrant was obtained to determine Pine's blood-alcohol level.

Woman Sues Over Use Of Her School Photo On Novelty Flask The Santa Fe New Mexican, The Associated Press

A New Mexico woman is suing a novelty products maker over a flask that includes her likeness and the phrase, "I'm going to be the most popular girl in rehab."

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Veronica Vigil alleges in her lawsuit in federal court that Anne Taintor Inc. obtained and used her high school graduation picture from 1970 without her permission.

The lawsuit says the Brooklyn, New York-based company then defamed Vigil by linking her image to a product that makes light of substance abuse.

Court documents say the Chimayó, New Mexico, resident is an active church member and doesn't consume alcohol or drugs.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.

A spokeswoman for Anne Taintor Inc. said the company does not comment on pending litigation.